COMMENTARY | Adam Caplan of ESPN reported earlier on Tuesday that the San Francisco 49ers waived wide receiver Kyle Williams. While releasing a wide receiver after San Francisco's passing display on Sunday may seem a bit odd, the writing was on the wall here.
Williams had his return duties taken away against the Jacksonville Jaguars in Week 8 and played a total of 21 offensive snaps against Carolina this past week. Williams, who the 49ers were high on coming out of Arizona State back in 2010, never really made an impact on offense and is better known for his fumbles in the NFC Championship game back in January of 2012. He caught a career-high 20 passes and scored three touchdowns in 2011
This season has been a major struggle for the veteran receiver. He's caught a total of 12 passes for 61 yards on 27 targets. Quarterback Colin Kaepernick possessed the lowest quarterback rating in the NFL when throwing to Williams, who averaged just 2.3 yards per target.
The attention now turns to Michael Crabtree, who tore his Achilles back in May and was then expected to be a late-season return. The 2012 breakout star worked his tail off during the rehab process and returned to practice earlier this month, less than six months after suffering the serious injury. It couldn't have come at a better time for a 32nd-ranked 49ers pass offense.
With that being said, returning to practice was the first step in a rather lengthy process. Crabtree first needs to be activated to the 53-man roster. He then needs to work himself into game shape before actually seeing the field, at which point he will be playing in his first meaningful game since the Super Bowl this past February.
On the bright side, Crabtree's return to practice came a bit earlier than originally anticipated. While mum on the entire situation, the feeling around 4949 Centennial BLVD in Santa Clara was that Crabtree wasn't going to be able to see the field until early December. He now appears to be at least a week ahead of schedule, which is huge for a 49ers team now battling for a postseason spot with seven games remaining in the regular year.
For his part, Crabtree isn't setting a specific return date, per SF Gate.
"I'm just going to go day-by-day...You get into circling dates and it's kind of rushing yourself to be ready by then. I just feel like I need to go one day at a time."
According to Matt Maiocco of CSN Bay Area, Crabtree's potential activation date is mid-to-late November.
"Crabtree remains on the reserve/physically-unable-to-perform list, but he is on pace to be activated to the roster in mid-to-late-November - a timeline 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh first revealed during a press conference on Oct. 7."
It is not uncommon for an injury player to stray away from setting a specific date for a return while his team assesses the situation in a different matter, at least publicly.
The interesting dynamic here is that San Francisco might not be in a position to be patient with Crabtree. Its coming off a dismal passing display against the Carolina Panthers last Sunday that saw it net less than 50 total passing yards, the lowest number for the franchise since 2005. The 49ers are now 2.5 games behind the Seattle Seahawks in the NFC West and only one game ahead of the Arizona Cardinals, among other teams, for the final playoff spot.
According to league rules, San Francisco had a 21-day window to activate Crabtree from the PUP list when he began practicing on Nov.5. This means that it will have to place him on the 53-man roster in less than two weeks. League rules also indicate that the 49ers can activate him at any time before then.
Even if Crabtree were able to go this upcoming weekend against the New Orleans Saints, it doesn't make a whole lot of sense to have him test that Achilles on the artificial turf at the Superdome. Even San Francisco's Week 12 matchup against the Washington Redskins could be a bit iffy. Washington's playing surface is considered one of the worst in the entire NFL.
The issue here is that San Francisco can't afford to wait. Once Crabtree shows that he has the ability to make an impact on the field, he will be suiting up. You can take that to the bank.
Either way you put it, having Crabtree back at anywhere near 100 percent is a tremendous upgrade over what we have seen from Williams over the past few seasons. It just remains to be seen when he is actually going to get on the field.
Vincent Frank has been covering the National Football League for three years. He started out writing for Bleacher Report and is currently the head editor at eDraft and a columnist at Pro Football Focus. Vincent co-hosts a weekly radio show called "Football Debate Central" with former NFL player Ryan Riddle and has seen his work featured on CNN, BR and Los Angeles Times, among many other outlets.
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